The chief election commissioner (CEC), SNA Zaidi, announced that all future elections, including that of Himachal Pradesh assembly, will now be held with voter-verified paper audit trail machines (VVPATs).
The HP elections are slated for end of this year.
Zaidi was at Panjab University (PU) on Saturday to address the 13th annual National Conference on ‘Electoral and Political Reforms’, held by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
In paper trail machines a voter could see their vote being cast to the candidate they pressed the button for. Two government public sector units will manufacture them.
“India would be the first country to use them. We have got the funds and VVPAT machines would boost the voters’ confidence,” Zaidi said.
All-party meeting called to discuss EVMs
On the recent questions that have been raised on the EVM being ‘compromised’, he said that election commission had called for an all-party meeting. AAP, BSP and Congress had called for return to the ballot paper system after they alleged tampering of EVMs in the recently concluded assembly elections of five states.
On paid news, he said a proposal had been sent to the government to make it an offence.
When law ministry returned EC’s proposal thrice
Regarding RK Nagar bypoll in Tamil Nadu, Zaidi said abuse of money power altered voters’ choices. “There were widespread allegations of corruption over bribing of voters in institutionalised manner… large number of FIRs were lodged. The income-tax department seized documents showing withdrawal and disbursement of ₹90 crore to voters…we intervened and countermanded the polls.”
The EC used powers vested under Article 324 of the Constitution. The elections were to be held on April 12.
In the recently held elections to 5 states, EC had seized Rs 350 crore.
He added, “The figures indicate seriousness of the issue. It is a tip of the iceberg… we have recommended to the law ministry the amendment in Section 58 (b) of People Representation Act, 1951 for countermanding the poll in case of bribing of voters. They have disagreed with us thrice…After RK Nagar, we are hoping for another push.”
On action against candidates for bribing of voters, he said, “After conviction under Indian Penal Code (IPC) for bribing of voters, a person gets disqualified for 6 years. So, we have recommended that a person stands disqualified at the stage of framing of charges,” he said. The proposal is pending.
On the transparency of candidates, he told audience that two weeks ago they had brought changes in Form 26 to be filled at the time of nomination where they now had to tell the source of income of self and spouse. He said that earlier only profession used to be asked and candidates used to write ‘social work’, though their assets were worth Rs 200 crore-Rs 300 crore.
He said that on April 7, an amendment had been brought in nomination form where a candidate had to give information on eight counts of disqualification. “Recently, an elected candidate in Uttar Pradesh was disqualified, only two weeks before his tenure, as he was holding a large number of government contracts,” he said.
He said that their recommendation for reducing the anonymous contribution limit to political parties from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 had not been approved and on the other hand electoral bonds would be issued, which would mask the identity of corporate houses who buy them.
Regarding holding the assembly and general elections simultaneously, he said that wide debate was needed on it.